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Real Equality for Women Does Not Promote Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation

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On June 13, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada heard from 14 interveners as it considers a landmark case on the laws surrounding prostitution. It is notable then, that in Attorney General of Canada, et al. v. Terri Jean Bedford, et al., many of the interveners are women's advocacy organizations that are directly opposed to the legalization of prostitution. The Women's Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution represents seven organizations that have found that women's equality has decreased when prostitution is legalized. For example, the Native Women's Association of Canada has emphasized that "It is an issue for all women who support equality. As long as Aboriginal women and girls are bought and sold in prostitution, Aboriginal women will never have equality."

Similarly, the Government of Canada decided to appeal this case to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2012, as we view prostitution as inherently harmful to vulnerable persons, especially women and girls from First Nations communities. Prostitution victimizes and exploits women and girls and forces those who have few choices into a world of fewer choices.

There is also a critical link between prostitution and human trafficking that is too often ignored by those calling for legalization. In 2003, the Scottish Parliament commissioned the University of London to conduct a 'comprehensive analysis of outcomes of prostitution policies in other countries.' The study found that the legalization and regulation of prostitution led to a dramatic increase in the involvement of organized crime in the sex industry, in child prostitution, in the number of foreign women trafficked into the region, and a general increase in violence against women.

In Canada, studies by the RCMP, House of Commons Status of Women Committee, UBC Professor Benjamin Perrin, and the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) have shown that Canadian born women and youth are vulnerable to sex slavery. In particular, the 2008 CISC study found that organized crime syndicates in Canada recruit Canadian born women between the ages of 12-25 years to traffic inter- and intra-provincially for the purposes of forced prostitution. The 2010 RCMP study, Hidden Abuse-Hidden Crime, revealed a number of groups of youth in Canada to be vulnerable to sex trafficking, especially youth from First Nations communities.

As such, I am unapologetically for the abolition of prostitution, a system that dehumanizes and degrades humans and reduces them to a commodity to be bought and sold. This is the reality we face in Canada and the motivation for the Canadian government's efforts to combat sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.

The case being made by Bedford et al. is not about making the streets safer for prostitutes or securing equality for women. It is about one thing: making pimps and human traffickers richer. True equality for women will never come from a legal system that encourages the prostitution and sale of women and vulnerable populations. Rather, Canada should continue to criminalize the pimps, traffickers and real root of prostitution: the clients.